Hi there! So, can you tell us a bit about your background, how did you start working with UN Women?
I had a privileged upbringing in India, in a family that never let me believe that I was inferior because I’m a girl. It irks me to know that other girls and women are not empowered in the same way. I moved to Singapore after I got married, and I was incredibly keen to enact change in the field of women’s rights. The work that the Singapore Committee for UN Women does was exactly what I was looking for. I started as an intern and continued to develop my role with the support of the executive team. I now head all public awareness and youth initiatives.
Which women inspire you?
My mother is my biggest inspiration. She has been a leader in her field and a dedicated professional who works seven days a week, but has still always made the time to support and address the needs of extended family and friends.
So what would you say are some of the cultural challenges women uniquely face in Singapore?
Singapore is an amazing melting pot of cultures and is unique in that there are multiple cultural practices that need to be taken in to consideration when highlighting challenges that women face.
In addition, Singaporean women are fully productive employees in the workforce and face a balancing act between working (which is often considered a non-traditional role for a woman) and cultural traditions and expectations.
Why do you think youth awareness is so integral to social change?
The youth are the decision makers and leaders of tomorrow, so building their awareness of issues within their community and the region is crucial to inculcating early mindset change, as is engaging them to invest their time and resources in social innovation.
How do you think women’s roles in Singapore have changed over the years?
The role of women has diversified over the years and women today are no longer confined to homemaker roles. More women are choosing to work in a diverse range of industries, allowing them greater career options and financial independence. The concept of joint breadwinners is becoming more prevalent. The change in the female labour force participation rate has shaped the way women view their own roles in society.
Singapore is such a multicultural place, how do you think that helps women’s rights and gender equality?
Awareness plays a crucial role in identifying issues and is the first step in beginning to talk about options and solutions. The multiculturalism of Singapore allows the exchange of views and raises awareness on interpretations of women’s rights within the different cultures and worldviews.
When you’re not working, where do you like to go and what do you like to do?
I work through the week, often odd hours, so I like to head home when given the opportunity and to rustle up a healthy delicious home cooked meal.
Can you let us in on some of your favourite restaurants?
Margaritas at Dempsey Hill, Chat Masala at East Coast, Thanying restaurant at Amara Hotel, Catalunya at One Fullerton, and the world famous Din Tai Fung.
How would you describe your style?
Sophisticated chic, with minimal fuss, with a mix of traditional and contemporary Indian and Chinese overtones
Your favourite shops in Singapore?
Atelier Ong Shunmugam – a wonderfully contemporary label that creates wear-forever pieces. The gorgeously unique Shanghai Tang, for an online fix I turn to Gnossem – an amazing curation of independent designers. Then for books, there is the immense Kinokuniya, Books Actually.
What are your hidden Singapore go-to spots?
Two Face Pizza and Taproom at Eng Hoon Street, Bread and Hearth at Keong Saik Road. Littered with Books at Duxton Hill for a literary fix. The second hand bookstore at Bras Basah complex to find unusual and hard to find books. MTR, a small, no frills, but legendary tiffin room from Bangalore, India, now based on Serangoon Road, which does justice to its long and rich history by serving up incomparable South Indian comfort food.
What’s the best advice you were ever given?
No matter how tough a situation gets, never succumb to self-pity. A clear head is the most effective tool in solving a problem.
Thanks Mrinalini – that’s certainly given us a lot to think about! And thank you as always, to the fab Biju from Biju Photography for the wonderful images.